Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

“…other enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite nature.”

“…other enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite nature.”

A defense of Weber’s Protestant Ethic thesis from the 1940s by Ephraim Fischoff makes the plausible argument that critics — and many supporters — of Weber’s essay attached unwarranted causality to it, as if “Calvinism caused capitalism.” Instead, Fischoff explained:

Weber’s thesis must be construed not according to the usual interpretation, as an effort to trace the causative influence of the Protestant ethic upon the emergence of capitalism, but as an exposition of the rich congruency of such diverse aspects of a culture as religion and economics.

Fair enough. Then along comes Colin Campbell 43 some odd years later talking about the Other Protestant Ethic. It was Campbell’s intention in The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Consumerism to update Weber and to fill in what he saw as a significant gap in Weber’s thesis — his failure to account for new consumer attitudes, which Campbell traced back to Sentimentalism and Romanticism, both adaptations of Protestantism. 

US Trade Deficit Rises 4.8% in February to Record High

US Trade Deficit Rises 4.8% in February to Record High,” Commenter R.J.S. at Marketwatch 666

Our trade deficit rose 4.8% February, as both our exports and imports decreased, but the value of our exports fell by almost three times as much as the value of our imports did….the Commerce Department report on our international trade in goods and services for February indicated that our seasonally adjusted goods and services trade deficit rose by $3.3 billion to $71.1 billion in February, from a January deficit that was revised down to $67.8 billion from the $68.2 billion deficit reported a month ago…in rounded figures, the value of our February exports fell by $5.0 billion to $187.3 billion on $4.8 billion decrease to $131.1 billion in our exports of goods and a $0.2 billion decrease to $56.1 billion in our exports of services, while our imports fell $1.7 billion to $258.3 billion as a $2.0 billion decrease to $219.1 billion in our imports of goods was partially offset by a $0.3 billion increase to $39.2 billion in our imports of services….export prices averaged 1.6% higher in February, which means our real exports fell more month over month than the nominal decrease by that percentage, while import prices rose 1.3%, meaning that the contraction in real imports was greater than the nominal decrease reported here by that percentage…

The decrease in our February exports of goods resulted from lower exports of capital goods, consumer goods, soybeans, and of automotive vehicles, parts and engines…referencing the Full Release and Tables for February  (pdf), in Exhibit 7 we find that our exports of capital goods fell by $2,451 million to $39,094 million, led by a $738 million decrease in our exports of industrial machines other than those itemized separately, a $459 million decrease in our exports of civilian aircraft, and a $409 million decrease in our exports of semiconductors, and that our exports of consumer goods fell by $937 million to $15,049 million on a $470 million decrease in our exports of gem diamonds; in addition, our exports of foods, feeds and beverages fell by $727 million to $13,166 million on a $889 million decrease in our exports of soybeans, and our exports of automotive vehicles, parts, and engines fell by $703 million to $11,899 million on a $319 million decrease in our exports of parts and accessories of vehicles other than tires, engines and chassis and a $280 million decrease in our exports of new and used passenger cars, while our exports in other goods not categorized by end use fell by $372 million to $4,968 million . . . partially offsetting the decreases in those end use categories, our exports of industrial supplies and materials rose by $352 million to $46,448 million as a $2,399 million increase in our exports of natural gas and a $503 million increase in our exports of non-monetary gold were partly offset by a $824 million decrease in our exports of crude oil, a $326 million decrease in our exports of plastic materials, and a $300 million decrease in our exports of natural gas liquids…

On Gerrymandering

Every citizen of the United States has the right to be represented in both their state and federal governments by a representative chosen in a free and fair election. In a free and fair and election, each and every vote is equal. By definition a gerrymandered election is unfair because it favors one group of citizens over another. In a gerrymandered district, one’s vote may count for nothing, one party’s vote may count for nothing. In a gerrymandered state, the majority of residents’ votes may count for nothing. In gerrymandered states, many of the state’s residents are being deprived of their right to representation at both the state and federal level.

In states with gerrymandered districts, the members of the state’s legislature are not representative of the majority of the residents of that state. In states with gerrymandered districts, the state’s delegation of representatives to the US House of Representatives is almost certainly not representative of the majority of the residents of that state. In gerrymandered states, only the residents’ votes for US Senators and US Presidents are immune the distortion in representation caused by the gerrymandering.

State Legislatures write and pass laws that apply to any and every one in the state. If the state is gerrymandered, these laws are being imposed on those denied representation by this gerrymandering; are likely being written by representatives elected by a minority of the voters in the state. The US House of Representatives writes and passes laws that apply to any and all persons in the US. These federal laws, too, are being imposed on those denied representation by gerrymandering.

State and federal legislatures allocate government funds to state and federal districts within a state. This allows state and federal representatives to ‘bring home the bacon’. In gerrymandered states, the bacon is more likely to go to the district(s) that voted for the elected representative than those that didn’t. The spoils of gerrymandering go to those who did the gerrymandering.

In state after state, we see gerrymandered state legislatures override voter approved initiatives and referendums; deny the will of the people. At the Federal level, we see popular legislation voted down because of gerrymandering at the state level; the will of the majority of the people being denied.

For all intents and purposes, in gerrymandered districts, the minority’s votes don’t count; they are being denied their right to vote, their right to representation. Gerrymandering is voter suppression. Gerrymandering is most undemocratic. Gerrymandering is not playing fair.

Risk of Being Killed by Police Varies by Your Ethnicity

A Healthcare Issue

Derek Chauvin trial live: Paramedic who responded to George Floyd told partner.

‘I think he’s dead.’

When paramedics arrived, Bravinder saw multiple officers on the side of the road on top of “our patient lying on the ground next to a squad car. He said he

“assumed there was potentially some struggle still since they were still on top of him.” 

“Prosecutor Erin Eldridge played a clip of officer Thomas Lane’s body camera video, which shows Floyd lying handcuffed, flat on the ground, on his stomach and unmoving as the paramedics bring over a stretcher. 

Bravinder is seen making a gesture with his hand, indicating that Chauvin needs to move his knee so that Floyd can be put on the gurney. Bravinder also tries to ensure Floyd’s head doesn’t slam into the ground while he’s moved because his body is limp, according to the video.”

You can only kill or murder a person once. Anything afterwards is a lack of respect for the humanity.

The link will take you to the article from which these snippets are taken from and leading off this post. What I wish to do today is post on the risk of confrontations and the resulting impact with the police. In most cases, a conversation with a police officer is a matter of intimidation.

Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex”

Being a numbers oriented person, I approach detail in a different manner. There are writers at AB who are far more nuanced (?) than I am. I am direct and I follow the numbers.

Whether cause related or not, police violence is a leading cause of death for young men in the United States. Over a life time, an approximate “1 in every 1,000″black men will (or can expect to) die from police intervention. “


The risk of dying from police intervention peaks between the ages of 20 and 35 years of age for men and women. This includes racial and ethnic groups. Separate from Black women and men, Latino men, American Indians, and Alaska Natives are more likely to die from police intervention than white women and men.

Race and Gender

An Incomplete Letter

Dear Senator Joe McConnell, Joe McManchin, Joe Manchin:

I write to you not as a constituent because I am not one of your constituents; but, I am confused. It is difficult to align with a politician who changes his persona various times.  I am confused by your series of stances on the filibuster and what you believe it to mean with regard to the Senate and its procedures.

The filibuster was never meant to be the sole action available as taken by a minority within the Senate. It did have a counter which fell by the wayside when suggested such was unneeded due to Senators being more astute and gentlemanly in their manner during Senate sessions.

After a debate was begun, the “Previous Question Motion” was used in the Senate to end debate if needed.  It required a simple majority of voting members to pass. Being such institution was peopled by gentlemen, debate might last a long period of time as party allegiance was not as strict as it is today with one Senator controlling what can and can not be presented to the Senate body for debate. The last 4+ years of control of the Senate have been dictated by one person.

Jobless claims: progress pauses, as a new surge in COVID in Michigan and the Northeast causes concern

Jobless claims: progress pauses, as a new surge in COVID in Michigan and the Northeast causes concern

New jobless claims are likely to the most important weekly economic data for the next 3 to 6 months. As the number of those vaccinated continues to increase, I expect a big increase in renewed consumer and social activities, with a concomitant gain in monthly employment gains – as we saw in the March jobs report last week.Three weeks ago I set a few objective targets: I am looking for new claims to be under 500,000 by Memorial Day, and below 400,000 by Labor Day. This week didn’t help us, although it is more of a pause than a significant increase.

On a unadjusted basis, new jobless claims rose by 18,172 to 740,787. Seasonally adjusted claims rose by 16,000 to 744,000. The 4 week average of claims also rose by 2,000 from last week’s pandemic low of 721,250 to 723,250. 

Here is the close up since last August (recall that these numbers were in the range of 5 to 7 million at their worst in early April):

With a Booming economy comes at least transitory inflation

With a Booming economy comes at least transitory inflation: March producer prices

One of the economic subjects you are going to hear a lot about this year is inflation. We are recovering from a sharp if brief recession, and with the dual firehoses of fiscal and monetary stimulus, entering a Boom such as we have probably not seen in over 50 years.

Unsurprisingly supplies of commodities and goods that had been cut back during the recession are going to be stretched thin and much competed for now, generating at least a brief burst of inflation.

With that background noted, this morning producer prices for March were reported up 1.3% for that month alone. YoY producer prices are up 6.0% (blue in the graphs below):

The Danger From Within

No doubt, they saw these decisions as moments of greatness. Or, at least hoped that history would see it that way. One, an egotistical ass who used his intellect as a cudgel with which to intimidate, to bully others. The other, simply a small minded man selected for that very smallness of mind. The one, recently departed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The other, now Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Had Justice Scalia been even half as smart as he thought he was, he would have known that America is as great as we the people make it. That the right to vote, not the right to possess a gun, is our path to our destiny. That the constitution was given to us not as sword to fall upon, but rather as a rock upon which to build our democracy.

As a consequence of Justice Scalia’s Heller decision, and, make no mistake, it was a huge mistake and it was his; across the nation, we now have half-wits too dumb to understand democracy armed with assault weapons forming armed militia in order to ‘protect to democracy’. To these idiots; democracy means their right to bear arms; democracy comes from the barrel of a gun, not with the vote. Many of them couldn’t even be bothered to vote. After all, what does voting have to do with democracy? As a consequence of Heller, America has more guns per capita than any other country; more gun deaths per capita than any other country.

Chief Justice Roberts no doubt hopes to be remembered well; perhaps, even as being a great man. Don’t we all? Too bad, Justice Roberts. History will see you for the small minded man you were: The Chief Justice who unleashed the forces of wealth against our democracy in Citizens v. FEC, the Chief Justice of Shelby v. Holder, the Chief Justice of Rucho v. Common Cause; as the Chief Justice Taney of the 21st century. Let us pray that Citizens, Shelby, Rucho, …, don’t take so long to be overturned; that another Chief Justice comes along soon who sees the wrong in these decisions; that they must be overturned. A Chief Justice that can again set us on a path forward.

Did Justice Scalia even believe in democracy? Let us look to his votes. He voted with the majority in Citizens, Shelby, and Bush v. Gore. So, let us say that he didn’t. What of those members of well armed militias enabled by his Heller decision who assaulted the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in an attempted insurrection? Those who would use force to overturn that very cornerstone of democracy, a free and fair election? How was it that the ‘brilliant’ Justice Scalia was incapable of foreseeing the consequences of Heller?

Chief Justice Roberts, does he believe in democracy? Again, there is no evidence that he does, a lot that he does not. It seems that John Roberts does believe in serving the Republican party (he ran to George W. Bush’s aid in Florida in 2000), in the Federalist Society, and in something he calls ‘Originalism’. What of the consequences of his Citizens decision? Tens of $Billions of dark money being spent on political campaigns, on appointing Federalist Society adherents to the Federal Courts (including the last three appointments to the Supreme Court). What of the consequences of Shelby v. Holder? To date, republican legislatures in forty-three states have taken steps to suppress minority voting based on that decision. They could do this because they could because of the Shelby decision and of the gerrymandering permitted under the Rucho v. Common Cause decision. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is no friend of democracy.

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Judges, Ideologues, Dogmatics, and bad


Pandemic still in control

February JOLTS report showed a pandemic still in control

Yesterday morning’s JOLTS report for February showed that the pandemic was still in control of the numbers.
This report has only a 20 year history, and so includes only two prior recoveries. In those recoveries: 

  • first, layoffs declined
  • second, hiring rose
  • third, job openings rose and voluntary quits increased, close to simultaneously

The recovery from the worst of the pandemic almost one year ago at first followed this script, but the winter surge, which led to a few month of flat, or worse, jobs reports, disrupted that trend.

Layoffs have followed the above script, reverting to normal levels back in last May, and continuing at those levels since:

Good Signs On Renewing US-Iran JCPOA Nuclear Deal

Good Signs On Renewing US-Iran JCPOA Nuclear Deal

 One should probably not get too optimistic yet, although I have been getting quite worried about it, but a report in today;s New York Times seems to indicate that via the rather indirect negotiations going on in Vienna the US and Iran may have worked out a mutually acceptable path of actions that will lead to both nations getting back into compliance with the JCPOA, which the US pulled out of for no good reason in 2018 due to former President Trump.  President Biden has said he intended to get back into the deal, and after a bunch of delays, it looks like it might actually be happening before the forthcoming Iranian presidentrial election in June, thought likely to lead to the replacement of current Iran President Rouhani, who negotiated the original deal in 2015, with somebody likely to take a harder line. So, about time.

Barkley Rosser